Scotland’s top runners in the Global Energy Inverness 1/2 Marathon will have to overcome a major African challenge in the Highland capital’s big race on 11th March.
Ethiopian athletes Yared Hagos and Hana Megersa have signed up for the contest which this year offers bumper top prizes of £1,000 for the first man and woman to cross the finishing line.
A record field of more than 2,000 runners will take part in what promises to be one of the most competitive races in the 28-year history of the event.
Hagos, who is currently based in the North of England, has a pedigree which suggests he is more than capable of winning and challenging the race record of 1hr 4min 32sec set by Glasgow’s Great Britain international Peter Fleming in 1993.
The Ethiopian has a best time of 1:03:31 set when finishing a very creditable eighth in last October’s Great North Run between Newcastle and South Shields.
He opened his 2012 season in good form, winning January’s York half marathon in 1:06:42 then taking top spot in last Sunday’s Tunbridge Wells half marathon in which he recorded 1:04:15.
Megersa is less experienced than Hagos, having never previously competed in this country, but is expected to feature prominently in the women’s division of the Inverness race.
Her best time of 1:20:30 was set in warm conditions at the Hawassa half marathon in 2011 and she also set an impressive 10Km best of 35:21 at altitude in the Great Ethiopia Run last November.
Glasgow-based Eritrean athletes Tesgai Tewelde and Teweldeberhan Mengisteab, both members of Shettleston Harriers, have also joined the elite field.
Both men have best times of a little over 1hr 5min, so they too will be in the frame for the leading prizes.
Inverness race organiser Malcolm Sutherland believes the Ethiopians in particular will pull out the best in the home-based runners.
He said: “It’s great that our race has attracted such good quality overseas runners.
“I’m sure their presence will inspire the top Scots to raise their performances which means we should have a cracking competition.
“I’m looking forward to what seems likely to be a really exciting day of racing.”
Meanwhile top Irish mountain runner Sharon Bird has confirmed she also plans to compete.
The North Belfast Harriers’ club member has a best time of 1hr 19min 37sec and if she shows that sort of form she’ll certainly be in the mix for the top prize.
In addition to the half marathon, the race day programme also features a 5Km fun run and Team Attack competition which has attracted close to 900 entrants.
Entries have now closed, with limited 5K Fun Run entries available on race day.